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  1. #1

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    Default Cary Audio CAD-200 SS Amp

    Others around here at Club Polk are really good at the technical review or they can wax on poetically like the folks at 6moons, among others. Unfortunately, I can't wax on for very long and while appreciative of the in-depth technical review, would rather just avoid the beating around the bush and get to the meat and potatoes of the equipment and what I'm hearing on my rig. With that in mind....

    First, the basic lowdown is that the CAD amps are built upon the design of the all-world Cinema 5 home theater amp. Cary took this design and with some refinements and design enhancements created the CAD-500 monoblock and the CAD-200 stereo amp. The said enhancements are supposed to increase dynamics over the Cinema 2 and be more suitable for 2-channel pleasure. The CAD-200 and the Cinema series amps are common ground and perfectly safe with all the SDA speakers we love here on Club Polk. Since I don't have the coin, I've yet to inquire as to whether the CAD-500 mono's can be strapped together a la the Parasound JC-1's. FWIW, the gentleman I purchased the CAD-200 from believed the top-end characteristics of the 200 were a bit sweeter than the 500 so for similar coin it may be better to bi-amp with (2) 200 versus single 500's.

    It's worth noting that the CAD-500 will double up and produce 1kW @ 4 ohms while the CAD-200, Cinema 2 & 5 are a bit more regulated and only put out 350W @ 4ohms. Also of interest is that the Cinema 5 is stable for bi-amping purposes if the 4 outside channels are used for the highs and mids. This was the original plan for my gear, but the Cinema 5's jumped quite a bit on Audiogon by the time I was ready to pull the trigger (~$2700-2900 to ~$3400+) hence a single CAD-200.

    That pretty well takes care of the background that's pertinent for my review. If you want to read up on the specs click here: Cary Audio CAD-200 Specs and the owner's manual is here: CAD-200 Owner's Manual Dennis Had's little story about how the Cinema and CAD series came about is worth a read if you're puzzled about how the uber tubehead came to designing and building sand amps.

    Meat

    I’ll admit upfront that one of my main concerns about moving from the Parasound’s would be a loss of dynamics and slam, especially with a bi-amp setup. I’m pleased to report that a single CAD-200, by my ears, has about 90% of the dynamics of the bi-amp combo of the HCA-2200 and 1000. Even on live material like Sarah McLachlan’s Afterglow Live CD/DVD the Cary delivered the goods with deep, detailed, slamming bass, a rich natural midrange and detailed, yet smooth highs. Due to my room, I have to run the SVS’s crossover pretty high (~70hz) compared with what the SDA-SRS’s are capable of, at least in a more controlled environment. Despite this and the SVS’s home theater slant, the CAD-200 mates well with the SVS and delivers a distinct improvement in bass detail.

    Potatoes (and Crowder peas, and kiwi’s and….)

    Here's the best part. This amp is so clean and natural yet rich and unfatigueing it is truly dangerous. The other night I had an extended listening session and the volume kept creeping up and up and up, yet it kept sounding better and better and better. The next day I thought I might have tinnitus. Luckily I didn't, but I have since been paying much closer attention to the volume buttons.

    I guess what I'm trying to get at is that the midrange is rich, detailed, and natural while the top is super clean, detailed, but certainly not bright. These traits seem most evident on my Latin Jazz recordings, specifically the timbales. Not only can you discern the detail of each strike on the side of the timbales or the slightly different strikes and taps on the bells or box, you can pick out the light tap in between each intended strike that the musician uses to keep time. All this detail is apparent, but not too bright all the while the horns aren't too brassy, the sax isn't too reedy, and the congas and bongols have lots of pop and texture and bass.

    I also must say that there seems to be an appropriate amount of air and soundstage width and depth. It's nothing exagerated or compressed. Just clean and natural.

    Just deserts

    Everything I've read online about these amps indicates that these are likely the most tube-like sand amps available at a reasonable price. I personally have zero experience with tube amps and only minimal experience with tube pre's. If the CAD-200 is supposed to be what tubes are with the dynamics and bass control of modern sand amps, then all I can say is that my thoughts of a big damn tube amp have been quenched yet fulfilled.

    All I can say is that if you are considering spend $1800-$2200 on a SS amp you'd be foolish not to audition a CAD or Cinema series solid state amplifier from Cary Audio.

    Wes

    P.S.-> I'll try to get some pictures up this weekend.
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    Last edited by I-SIG; 06-20-2008 at 07:49 PM. Reason: Added pictures
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    Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" HDTV | Polk Audio SDA-SRS's (w/RDO's & Vampire Posts) + SVS PC+ 25-31 | AudioQuest Granite (mids) + BWA Silver (highs) | Cary Audio CAD-200 | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Wyred 4 Sound STP/SE Pre | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Cambridge Audio azur 840C--Wadia 170i + iPod jammed w/ lossless audio--Oppo 970 | Pure|AV PF31d

  2. #2

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    nice review Wes, let's see those pictures
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  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by hoosier21 View Post
    nice review Wes, let's see those pictures
    Thanks, Russ. This amp is way kewl. Except for getting a Cinema 5 or second CAD-200, the amp job is nailed down pretty tight now. :)

    No worries on the pics. Tomorrow morning, my friend.

    Wes
    Link: http://polkarmy.com/forums

    Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" HDTV | Polk Audio SDA-SRS's (w/RDO's & Vampire Posts) + SVS PC+ 25-31 | AudioQuest Granite (mids) + BWA Silver (highs) | Cary Audio CAD-200 | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Wyred 4 Sound STP/SE Pre | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Cambridge Audio azur 840C--Wadia 170i + iPod jammed w/ lossless audio--Oppo 970 | Pure|AV PF31d

  4. #4

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    Nice Wes ! Cary has some damn good toys for sure.Did you pick it up new or allready broke in ?

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    Nice Wes ! Cary has some damn good toys for sure.Did you pick it up new or allready broke in ?
    Thanks, Tony.

    It was broken in. The gentleman thought there was 300-500 hours, which by some of the reviews of new Cary gear, is just perfect for me to avoid most of it. He did say it was sitting for a couple of months before he sold to me.

    Wes
    Link: http://polkarmy.com/forums

    Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" HDTV | Polk Audio SDA-SRS's (w/RDO's & Vampire Posts) + SVS PC+ 25-31 | AudioQuest Granite (mids) + BWA Silver (highs) | Cary Audio CAD-200 | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Wyred 4 Sound STP/SE Pre | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Cambridge Audio azur 840C--Wadia 170i + iPod jammed w/ lossless audio--Oppo 970 | Pure|AV PF31d

  6. #6

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    Thats why I asked.....Cary stuff definately benefits from a little break in.Sounds like you found a keeper.Congrats again,and enjoy the music.

  7. #7

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    Wax on, wax off. :)

    Nice review!
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  8. #8

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    Nice review, Wes. Very down to earth.

    I get a kick out of those superfluous flowery descriptions from folks who think they are members of the elite worldly intellegensia...

    Hear me Sean???

  9. #9
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    *rides in on my elite cloud*

    Hey West, I just wanted to stop by and say that I enjoyed reading your review. It's easy to dig on that Cary sound.. enjoy the amp!

    *mounts my elite cloud and rides off into the sunset*

  10. #10

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    I was wondering where that baby powder smell was coming from...

  11. #11

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    Wes said he wack's off

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  12. #12

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    Thanks for the mostly positive comments, y'all.

    Bump for adding pictures.

    Wes
    Link: http://polkarmy.com/forums

    Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" HDTV | Polk Audio SDA-SRS's (w/RDO's & Vampire Posts) + SVS PC+ 25-31 | AudioQuest Granite (mids) + BWA Silver (highs) | Cary Audio CAD-200 | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Wyred 4 Sound STP/SE Pre | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Cambridge Audio azur 840C--Wadia 170i + iPod jammed w/ lossless audio--Oppo 970 | Pure|AV PF31d

  13. #13

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    Congrats and thanks for the insights. You have good taste in gear.:)
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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by DarqueKnight View Post
    Congrats and thanks for the insights. You have good taste in gear.:)
    Thanks! I feel for what I've invested it would be hard to beat.

    I forgot to mention that my iPod even sounds a lot better. I hadn't listened to it in awhile and was using to put together a mix CD, to see how the songs flowed, and it really sounded better than I remember. A little drier than the Cambridge CDP, but not bad.

    Wes
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    Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" HDTV | Polk Audio SDA-SRS's (w/RDO's & Vampire Posts) + SVS PC+ 25-31 | AudioQuest Granite (mids) + BWA Silver (highs) | Cary Audio CAD-200 | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Wyred 4 Sound STP/SE Pre | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Cambridge Audio azur 840C--Wadia 170i + iPod jammed w/ lossless audio--Oppo 970 | Pure|AV PF31d

  15. #15

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    Very nice, congrats Wes enjoy!
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  16. #16

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    Very nice amp!! Cary makes some great stuff. Enjoy!!
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  17. #17

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    Very cool. Sounds like you found a keeper. Great review...

  18. #18

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    Thanks, Steve, Phil, & Cathy. I'm really diggin' this thing!

    Wes
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    Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" HDTV | Polk Audio SDA-SRS's (w/RDO's & Vampire Posts) + SVS PC+ 25-31 | AudioQuest Granite (mids) + BWA Silver (highs) | Cary Audio CAD-200 | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Wyred 4 Sound STP/SE Pre | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Cambridge Audio azur 840C--Wadia 170i + iPod jammed w/ lossless audio--Oppo 970 | Pure|AV PF31d

  19. #19

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    I had an opportunity to hear this amp on my system during the latest get together. Some observations:

    - Mid-bass was fleshed out and musical. Also provided more "drive" to the sound.

    - Super smooth midrange made vocals extremely real, eliminating any nasal sound that can sometimes plaque female vocals.

    - Real nice top-to-bottom linearity to the sound. No specific frequencies were pushed ahead of anything else. Made for a wonderful, even keel neutrality. Clean, clean, clean---but never boring.

    - Though counter-intuitive, I like the way the power LED turns "Off" when you turn the amp "On". Makes for good movie viewing not having an LED glare at you.

    Though out of my price range, a very nice amp. We didn't try it, but I would imagine it would really excel with classical/orchestra music due to its tonal linearity.

    Good grab Wes.
    Last edited by steveinaz; 08-19-2010 at 01:56 PM.

  20. #20

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    Just curious...At the get-together did you guys try this with any Lsi series speakers? If not, I'm wondering if Wes or anyone else has on his own?

    I'll be looking to move up from the low-end Parasound Halo series in about a year or two (and I think I'd like to go SS amp and tube pre). And I'd be looking for the characteristics that Steve mentioned just above. Thats why I'm asking.
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    polkaudio Lsi9s (upgraded cross-overs)
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  21. #21

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    Norm
    It was used with my Fritz carbon 7's, and Wes runs it with huge SDA's (SRS I think?).

    I haven't heard the Halo series, but I do have a Parasound HCA-1500A and I have to say in all honesty that while the Cary was very nice, the improvements were subtle against the HCA. Everyone has their "threshold" (and idea of "subtle") but I didn't hear enough of an improvement to pay the Cary price of admission. Now, to someone willing to drop that much coin, I doubt that you'll be disappointed. The "value index" would rise sharply as well if bought used.

    We spent about a 50/50 mix of the day of listening bewteen the Parasound and Cary.
    Last edited by steveinaz; 08-19-2010 at 04:51 PM.

  22. #22

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    Thanks for your comments, Steve.
    2 Ch.
    Parasound Halo A23 Amp
    Parasound Halo P3 Preamp
    Parasound Halo T3 Tuner
    Bada HD22SE tube CD Player
    Magnum Dynalab Signal Sleuth
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    polkaudio Lsi9s (upgraded cross-overs)
    MIT Shotgun S-3 Bi-wire Interface Speaker Cables
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  23. #23

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    Make no mistake, it's a FINE amp; just a little too spendy for me.

    FWIW, the Carbon 7's are more laid back in the treble than the Lsi9, and dig deeper in the bass. Midrange is also not as forward as it is presented on the Lsi9. The Lsi9 has more lower midrange punch, which gives music a real satisfying visceral feel to it; the Carbon 7's, less so.

    Given this and what I heard out of the Cary, I'd think they'd match very well.
    Last edited by steveinaz; 08-19-2010 at 05:12 PM.

  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norm Apter View Post
    Just curious...At the get-together did you guys try this with any Lsi series speakers? If not, I'm wondering if Wes or anyone else has on his own?

    I'll be looking to move up from the low-end Parasound Halo series in about a year or two (and I think I'd like to go SS amp and tube pre). And I'd be looking for the characteristics that Steve mentioned just above. Thats why I'm asking.
    Norm, sounds like you would like a Pass Labs amp too.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

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  25. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    Norm, sounds like you would like a Pass Labs amp too.

    H9
    Perhaps, pure coincidence but I dropped you a PM on this very matter just a few minutes before you wrote this. Crazy audio minds think alike?
    2 Ch.
    Parasound Halo A23 Amp
    Parasound Halo P3 Preamp
    Parasound Halo T3 Tuner
    Bada HD22SE tube CD Player
    Magnum Dynalab Signal Sleuth
    Magnum Dynalab ST-2 antenna
    polkaudio Lsi9s (upgraded cross-overs)
    MIT Shotgun S-3 Bi-wire Interface Speaker Cables
    MIT Shotgun S-3 Interconnects (3)
    IegO L70530 Power cords (3)

    HT
    Denon 2808ci AVR
    polkaudio RTi A5s (fronts)
    polkaudio RTi A1s (rears)
    polkaudio Csi A6 (center)
    Signal Cable Ultra Speaker Cables
    Signal Cable Analog II Interconnects

  26. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norm Apter View Post
    Perhaps, pure coincidence but I dropped you a PM on this very matter just a few minutes before you wrote this. Crazy audio minds think alike?
    Ha..Ha.. I saw that.........I'll get back to you after I have a little time to write something informative.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

  27. #27

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    Excellent review! That is one sexy unit. Nice Audio Alchemy DAC you have there. Do you have the matching jitter reducer?
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  28. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norm Apter View Post
    Just curious...At the get-together did you guys try this with any Lsi series speakers? If not, I'm wondering if Wes or anyone else has on his own?

    I'll be looking to move up from the low-end Parasound Halo series in about a year or two (and I think I'd like to go SS amp and tube pre). And I'd be looking for the characteristics that Steve mentioned just above. Thats why I'm asking.
    Norm,

    Courtney let me borrow his LSi9's a couple of years ago. I think it was before I got the Cary. As Steve said, I think the Cary would be a great match for the LSi's. Not that the Vifa is a harsh tweeter or anything, but the Parasounds probably didn't do it any favors. I think I woulda been pretty happy with some LSi-SDA's if such a beast ever exists though.

    Unless you already own the LSi's, I'd take a close look at those Fritz Carbon's that Steve has.....

    Wes
    Link: http://polkarmy.com/forums

    Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" HDTV | Polk Audio SDA-SRS's (w/RDO's & Vampire Posts) + SVS PC+ 25-31 | AudioQuest Granite (mids) + BWA Silver (highs) | Cary Audio CAD-200 | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Wyred 4 Sound STP/SE Pre | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Cambridge Audio azur 840C--Wadia 170i + iPod jammed w/ lossless audio--Oppo 970 | Pure|AV PF31d

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    Quote Originally Posted by organ View Post
    Excellent review! That is one sexy unit. Nice Audio Alchemy DAC you have there. Do you have the matching jitter reducer?
    Thanks. No jitter reducer for me, though I have on several occasions considered purchasing it. I actually have the Audio Alchemy Digital Line Controller (DLC) as my pre. It is a very neutral unit and seems to have nice synergy with a lot of different gear.

    Wes
    Link: http://polkarmy.com/forums

    Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" HDTV | Polk Audio SDA-SRS's (w/RDO's & Vampire Posts) + SVS PC+ 25-31 | AudioQuest Granite (mids) + BWA Silver (highs) | Cary Audio CAD-200 | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Wyred 4 Sound STP/SE Pre | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Cambridge Audio azur 840C--Wadia 170i + iPod jammed w/ lossless audio--Oppo 970 | Pure|AV PF31d

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    Quote Originally Posted by I-SIG View Post
    Norm,

    Courtney let me borrow his LSi9's a couple of years ago. I think it was before I got the Cary. As Steve said, I think the Cary would be a great match for the LSi's. Not that the Vifa is a harsh tweeter or anything, but the Parasounds probably didn't do it any favors. I think I woulda been pretty happy with some LSi-SDA's if such a beast ever exists though.

    Unless you already own the LSi's, I'd take a close look at those Fritz Carbon's that Steve has.....

    Wes
    Thanks, Wes.

    In fact, I do have the Lsi9s (and I just had the crossovers upgraded last month) so I'll be sticking with these speakers as I'm invested in them -- they'll be the base of the system as I move forward. The Parasound Halo stuff I have works nicely with the Lsi9s but I still think these speakers can handle more juice and would offer even better sound if I throw more power in their direction from a better amp and better pre.

    I won't be purchasing any new amplication and pre-amplification for at least a year, so I'm just spitballing ideas for possible candidates at this point.
    2 Ch.
    Parasound Halo A23 Amp
    Parasound Halo P3 Preamp
    Parasound Halo T3 Tuner
    Bada HD22SE tube CD Player
    Magnum Dynalab Signal Sleuth
    Magnum Dynalab ST-2 antenna
    polkaudio Lsi9s (upgraded cross-overs)
    MIT Shotgun S-3 Bi-wire Interface Speaker Cables
    MIT Shotgun S-3 Interconnects (3)
    IegO L70530 Power cords (3)

    HT
    Denon 2808ci AVR
    polkaudio RTi A5s (fronts)
    polkaudio RTi A1s (rears)
    polkaudio Csi A6 (center)
    Signal Cable Ultra Speaker Cables
    Signal Cable Analog II Interconnects

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